This is the telegram my mother sent to my father 58 years ago to announce my birth.
I was born in Victoria and my father was away at sea. At the top of the telegram, he’s printed: Rec’d in HMCS Stettler Enroute to Pearl Harbor. I think of my mother holding me and dictating the text she would send to her husband, father of her two sons. DARLING THERESA DIANE ARRIVED EVENING WEIGHING SIX POUNDS ALL WELL WE ALL LOVE YOU AND MISS YOU…
The telegram came to me a few years before my parents died. They tucked it into a birthday package. Like most family papers, it hadn’t been stored carefully away — look, it’s torn, discoloured, and folded into 16ths. (My father probably kept it in his wallet until he arrived home to see his new tiny daughter. Six pounds!) And true to family tradition, I haven’t done anything special with it but keep it in my dictionary. I’d like to honour it, honour the memory of the mother who sent it to her husband, far away, though loved and missed (and in those years a telegram cost precious dollars, each word measured and considered). Maybe this is the year I’ll frame it or even simply enclose it in a mylar envelope to protect what’s left of it.
So much of our history is rag-tag. A telegram, the teddy bear my father bought in Hawaii as a baby gift and who still sits in my study, much worse for wear (or well-loved), in a small wicker rocking chair. Photographs unsorted in boxes, some of the people beyond identifying. Or a phrase, Enroute to Pearl Harbor, with the mystery of that journey, the mystery of the man who received the telegram, held it in his hands, thought of the woman he loved and his two sons, and now a daughter. Probably he never felt so far from home.